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The Early Hughs of the Torrens Family in Ulster

The name Hugh is pivotal in the understanding of the published Torrens families trees. There are many mentions of Hugh Torrens in the early history of the Torrens families in Ulster.

Unfortunately there appears to be extremely good evidence that this multiplicity of Hughs has been misinterpreted and some of the families forefathers have been confused with each other so that persons stated to be brothers as they were sons of Hugh, were in fact sons of different Hughs!

Early Torrens mentions

The earliest mention of Torrens in Ulster seems to have been in the 1630 Muster rolls

John and Mungo are also mentioned elsewhere but there appears to be little evidence from which to locate any descendants in Ireland. A Mungo Torrence appears in the will of John Torrence of Brounhill, in Avondale, Scotland. He is the son of John and has brothers James and William. His mother is Marion Gray. Will is dated 22nd March 1591. Presumably this is the same Mungo. In 1685 is mentioned (in the index to the Sasines register for Lanark) one Mungo Torrens, a flesher. Again, we find one Mungo Torrence of Strathaven, a constable in Hamilton Lanarkshire, in 1710 (Publications of Scottish Historical Society 3rd Series Vol. 17). He clearly cannot be the same Mungo, so the obvious assumption is that our Mungo returned to Scotland and had a family. But it's possible there were other Mungos that didn't get into the records and that this second Mungo is not a son, but a nephew. But we find no further mention of Mungo in Ireland, so a return to Scotland is likely.

If Mungo and John were friends (they would likely be drawn together by the commonality of their names) they might have both returned to Scotland together - the name John is simply too common to make anything of it!

The next source of references are the hearth money rolls: it appears that several other Torrenses have now entered Ulster.

Hearth money roll

A text listing of the 1663 hearth-money roll for Aghadowey and Desertoghill parishes.

Hugh of Cachenny and Hugh of Culnamen

Are these two persons or the same person, listed twice?

The two American books both assume these two are one and the same person - an assumption originally made by Jared Sidney Torrance in his book and one which was continued by Robert M Torrence in his. But there may or may not be good reason to make such an assumption.

Cachenny and Culnamen, although close, are in different parishes. There are ten 'duplicate' names in the hearth money rolls for these two parishes and only where the two duplicate names occur in the same townland are they annotated Sr and Jr. Moreover, for a person to be listed twice he would necessarily have to be well-to-do so he is likely to be listed on the Subsidy roll. However Hugh Torrens is in fact the only name on the subsidy roll which is listed twice!

Certain figures such as Paul Canninge (who had 4 hearths) and Maj. William Blair are known to be land-owners and historical figures: their names do not appear twice. Apart from Paul Canninge with 4 hearths, there's only an Edward Vincent with 2 hearths.

However, in 1660 Cachenny and Culnamen were both 'native' settlements - ones which had not yet been settled by Scots immigrants. So, if Hugh had acquired land in one, it is by no means impossible that he had also acquired land in the other. But would such a person have owned two dwelling houses?

At best, the position is debatable but I find this all good evidence that there were in fact two Hughs Torrence!

If they are (as I am still inclined to believe) two, then Hugh of Culnamen is clearly the better off (so presumably the older?) as his name also appears on the subsidy rolls. Hugh of Cachenny is probably his son, or maybe some other relative. The mystery here is that Cahenny never again appears as the residence of a Torrens and if Cahenny Hugh is the son of Culnamen Hugh, the available dates indicate Cahenny Hugh is rather too old to be a likely father to Hugh of Mayoughill. Nevertheless - that is not impossible!

Sgt Hugh Terence


After the 1660s hearth money rolls the next mention of interest is a Sergeant Hugh Terence (sic) who served in the Williamite Campaigns and fought in the siege of Londonderry in 1689. Sgt Hugh name also appears on an exchequer bill of 1699. The complete text of this bill is available in the documents section. It is an interesting document - but is this Sgt Hugh Terence actually related to the Torrences/Torrances at all? The name seems more related to the modern Terrence and from a present-day viewpoint there would be no evidence or reason for the Torrenses to claim this Sergeant Hugh! It seems most likely that Sgt. Hugh Terence is in fact in no way connected to the Torrens lines!

Who was Sgt Hugh?


We do not know for certain, but the tree of his descendants as quoted in RMT is extremely unconvincing. One problem is that much of it is verbally reported family history - and the 'legend' of Sergeant Hugh is sufficiently interesting that several verbal histories seem to have claimed it as their own.

RMT, starting to list Sgt. Hugh's descendants, says (p 25): ¨Children of Sergeant Hugh Terence, as shown by family records, were three.¨

These 'family records' are not quoted so are open to suspicion. In fact - there is good reason to believe that this part of the early tree is a complete fiction invented by Gustav Anjou.

The three children were Albert Torrence, Hugh Torrance and James Torrance. I have elsewhere claimed that nothing can be learned from variations of spelling, yet I cannot but note the variation in the spelling of these three! Odd as Albert and Hugh seem to have settled in America in the same area - but I have not studied then in detail.

To quote Linde Lunney, probably the world's foremost living expert on the Irish Torrenses:

I don't know if Albert existed at all or not; the name is so rare in Ireland. Not unknown; there was an Albert Conyngham in the 17th C. who was from Donegal, the county beside Tyrone, and there was also an Albert Hall who was a defender of Derry city in the the siege of 1688. So Sgt Hugh could have come across the name, or might even have been related to one or other of these. As Richard notes, it was mostly a Germanic name. There is however a possibility that "Albert" should have been read as "Robert"; we forget, since all we ever see today is typewritten material, that somebody at some point made an effort to read 17th century handwriting in faded ink, in bad light and possibly with poor eyesight. If you take a moment to search the Internet for samples of 17th century Scots handwriting, you will see that it was very different from copperplate, very different from what we are familiar with, and not at all easy! The capital R in some hands in the early 18th C. comes out very flat-fronted, and could very easily be mistaken for capital A. Once someone thought that their great grandfather was called Albert rather than Robert, having misread it in a family Bible or will or whatever, the name could very well have come into use in a later generation.

To continue the quote from RMT (p25): ¨Albert Torrence and Hugh Torrance came to America, while James remained in Ireland¨

Albert and Hugh were together in America which can be takes as evidence that they were brothers. Both had sons named Hugh so it is possible that their father was also Hugh. Whether he was THE Hugh who had been a Sergeant, I doubt.

Son Hugh (10 Oct 1701 to 22 Jul 1784) married twice. By his first wife (Elizabeth unknown) he had children

  1. Adam Torrance (b. c: 1736 d. 20 Jun 1780)
  2. Elizabeth Torrance
  3. Eleanor Torrance
  4. George Torrance

Now the names Adam and George are both unknown among the Torrenses of the Bann Valley and in fact are uncommon in Ireland at that time. The only group where both names occur (as does Hugh) is amongst the Tamlaghtfinlagen Torrenses. This is a strong reason to suspect Hugh hailed from this branch.

James (RMT. p 120) ¨remained in Ireland and is believed to have settled in the Parish of Clogher, Tyrone¨.

Note the place: Clogher is in the southern tip of Tyrone, some 60 miles from the Bann Valley. Sgt Hugh has been stated to have been from the Bann valley (RMT p22). However, Jared dad, around 1920 employed J W Kernohan to comb the Irish records with the expressed intention of finding records of Sgt Hugh and linking Jareds line to him. Nothing had been found and it seems quite clear the Sgt Hugh was not from the Bann Valley.

Sixty miles separating Bann Valley from Clogher is not far these days, even in Ireland. But in 1700 it was an enormous trek across mountains and peat bogs. It would have been less accessible from the Bann valley than was America - to which there were regular sailings.

Note also the existence of a Hugh Torrence of Drumenlin, Barony of Clogher, Tyrone in the 1666 hearth money roll. Surely James must have been a descendant of this Hugh and has no connection whatsoever with the Bann valley!

Returning to Albert, he is claimed to have had two wives, the first in Ireland. One of her sons was said to be John Torrence of Culnamen. Now we have analysed the family of John and Jean Torrens and it is quite clear that they adhered strictly to Scottish naming traditions and that, had there been an ancestor Albert, this name would have appeared. It did not. Albert has no connection whatsoever with this family.

Three claimed other sons of Albert's first marriage went to America. None other of Sgt Hugh's descendants appear in the Bann valley.

Note also the hearth money rolls for the Bann valley: Hugh Torrens in Cacheny, Parish of Aghadowey, Londonderry and Hugh Torrens in Culnamen, Parish of Desertoghill, Londonderry. The Torrens holding in Cachenny disappears in subsequent records: either that family all died, had female progeny or the holding was sold to finance an emigration: maybe Hugh of Cachenny was the father of some of the American families? We have no evidence to suggest this.

And what of Hugh of Culnamen? It can hardly be disputed that he must be the ancestor of John of Culnamen. It is certain that the Culnamen Torrenses proliferated: in the 1821 census there were no less than 13 (yes - thirteen) Torrens families listed for 'Cooleman'.

So I find the Descendants of Sgt Hugh to be disproved. Now to construct a more likely tree - and hopefully thereby to link more Torrens families together than we have just unlinked.

So at this point I'll introduce a letter I received from Linde Lunney, probably the foremost living expert on the Bann valley Torrenses.


Campaign against Sergeant Hugh

What follows is a quotation from a letter from Linde Lunney.

American records; letters, bibles, wills, etc, available to the two American authors of the Torrens books may well have material which fully corroborates their hypothesis re the genealogy of their branches of the Torrens / Torrance / Torrence family.

However, I have access only to the two books as published, and I find in them very little material which links our co. Derry lines to Sergeant Hugh and his descendants. There are only two pieces of information on which the whole construction rests; they are the note that Sergeant Hugh was from the Bann side, and the statement that Albert left his son John in Ireland; the American author or his Irish genealogist then makes the assumption that this John was John who inherited Culnaman, and that John's two known brothers in Woodbury Conn. are likewise sons of Albert.

I wonder if Robert Torrens of Dorset had doubts about Sergeant Hugh? At any rate there was no mention of Sergeant Hugh in the material I got from him 15 years ago, and I first heard about a Sergeant Hugh when fellow researchers sent me extracts from the Torrens books. Even when I was first aware of Albert as the putative ancestor of the Culnaman line, I wasn't too alarmed, because I was still relying on a suggested descent for my own family from a Hugh b. 1732, which meant I didn't need to worry about Albert. That particular red herring was eliminated when Annie Fullerton recently sent me a full transcript of that Hugh's descendants in Gaston, NC.

So I had to look closely at Albert, and as I said in my last epistle, I didn't like him. So I decided to see if we could eliminate Sergeant Hugh and Albert, and it turned out to be remarkably easy to do so. I will deal in turn with the two points of contact mentioned above.

The American authors relied on Kernohan for their data and I believe for interpretation of that data. Kernohan was an acknowledged expert on N. Derry history, and undoubtedly a painstaking researcher; but I feel he may not have been open to, or expert on, other explanations of the parentage or origins of Sergeant Hugh. There is no source given for the statement that Sergeant Hugh came from the Bannside; I wonder if Kernohan was influenced by the existence of a stone, which he himself found and traced, for a Huey T., died 1712, in the Vow. The date would be appropriate for Sergeant Hugh, and although Kernohan doesn't go so far as to state that he had found the last resting-place of Sergeant Hugh, his memory of this gravestone on the shores of the Bann, albeit on the wrong side, could well underlie the confident assertion that Sergeant Hugh was a Bannsider.

Now the John left behind by Albert. Albert would have left John of Culnaman behind in Ireland when this John was little more than 12 years old; John was born in 1717 or so,and American descendants believe that Albert emigrated to America in 1730 or soon after. American sources may well be correct in stating that Albert did leave behind a son John of his first marriage; the statements about two marriages and all the rest of it are pretty circumstantial. Where I think Kernohan or his employers erred was in finding a John of about the right date in the available material who was conveniently apparently fatherless, and who was also in a network of Torrenses who did indeed use the name Hugh. That they did not EVER use the name Albert seems not to have concerned Kernohan and co. unduly. A similar process seems to have operated when they were looking for an Andrew who was still alive in Ireland in the early years of the 19th C.; Kernohan found one in the 1821 census in Culnaman who was about the right age, and lists his family as if he clearly belongs in the American lineages. I mention again the fact that Kernohan was a co. Derry specialist, who might not have looked very thoroughly elsewhere in Ireland.

I am not going to claim that I have found the real John, son of Albert, because I know all too well that information is just so scarce that it is completely impossible to achieve the kind of certainty that Kernohan could manage, when the records were still in existence. However, there is a possible John in Dromore, co. Tyrone, whose gravestone is transcribed in Irish Memorials of the Dead; he died 1818 said to be aged 100 years. He might have been only a year or two older than our John was when Albert left, I admit, but we don't necessarily have to believe that this John had really reached 100 years old when he died in 1818. I find the link with co. Tyrone of interest; I am going to suggest that Sergeant Hugh and his family were from co. Tyrone. I have always been a bit troubled by the way in which it is happily accepted that Sergeant Hugh's son James remained in Ireland, but migrated from Derry to Tyrone. This seems inherently unlikely to me; his only reason to stay in Ireland would be to stay close to family and friends and known opportunities there.

Sergeant Hugh may have been the son of the other Hugh Torrens in the Hearth Money Rolls; the one in Drumenlin, Tyrone. Dates would be as good as they are for ¨our¨ HMR Hugh in Caheny and or Culnaman. There is another hypothesis, which doesn't exclude the possibility of Drumenlin Hugh as a parent, to explain how they may have come to co. Tyrone. Sergeant Hugh must, I now believe, have been a career soldier. I don't know much about the promotion structure of the 17th C. army, but I don't believe that a farmer who rallied to a call to protect his area and who served in a siege just because he had to, would have got to be a sergeant. So, if he had a military career he may have been associated with the Hamilton family who were possibly his local lords, the equivalent of clan chiefs. Some of the Hamiltons, accompanied by Scottish mercenaries, pursued military and political careers on the continent, especially in Sweden in the early 17th C. It is conceivable that Sergeant Hugh came across the name ¨Albert¨ in Sweden or in North Germany, which is where the name really belongs; it was extremely rare in Britain and Ireland until popularized by Queen Victoria's German prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. It is even possible that Albert Torrance was called after a Swedish or German maternal grandfather. The Hamilton family and its various branches ended up owning large areas of Tyrone; the duke of Abercorn, N. Ireland's premier nobleman and largest landowner, is a Hamilton with his main estates in Tyrone, but there are other gentry Hamiltons there as well. So Sergeant Hugh might well have been given land by a former Hamilton commander.

There is another strong piece of evidence which links Sergeant Hugh to Tyrone; he was a sergeant in Captain Moore's company, and according to Simpson's Annals of Derry, Moore was from Aughnacloy, Tyrone. I suppose it is not impossible that Sergeant Hugh joined the first company he found when he got to Derry, but there were N. Derry raised companies, (even I believe one commanded by a man Galland from the Vow? and certainly one commanded by a Colonel Blair from Aghadowey, which tried to defend the Agivey area) which all retreated to Derry city from the Kilrea and Garvagh area after trying to defend the crossing of the Bann at Portglenone, so it is odd he didn't stay with them. The man who accompanied Sergeant Hugh in his later quest for back pay was a Bratten; there were no Brattens anywhere in co. Derry in the Hearthmoney Rolls, but there were several Brattens round Clogher in the 1660s HMR; the earliest grave in Clogher cathedral is to a Bratten in 1622, and they are still there. I would say they are probably indigenous to Clogher, going back there before the Plantation. This of course strengthens the likelihood that Sgt Hugh was himself a Clogher resident.

Sergeant Hugh must still have been in touch with former comrades in Tyrone, where his company had been raised, if he was sent by them to seek redress, and at that period, that can only have been the case if he had returned to a holding in Tyrone.

As an afterword to this it seems very likely that the entitre 'top' of the tree, as given in the RMT book, Torrence and Allied Families, descending from Sgt. Hugh Terence is a fiction assembled by Gustav Anjou.


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